Rape: It’s Time for Rotarians to Begin Talking About It

Jon-Deisher-150pxBy Jon Deisher, District 5010, International Service Director

Another gang rape in India! Again, seemingly in the Delhi area! Again, six men and a single woman on a bus! It seems to me that the trial, conviction and punishment of the perpetrators of the earlier case for the rape and murder of the physiology student should be accelerated. A socio-cultural, public and severe message needs to be sent. It is not only a problem in India. It’s a scourge of society everywhere.

Rape is the use of sexual dominance to intimidate, control and subjugate not only the victim but also all those whom the victims represent. Women are our mothers, sisters, and daughters. Women, to men, ought to be the sacred vessels of life: equal partners with men in the mission to make the world a better and safe place for our children. Men, to women, ought to be sacred protectors, fathers, brothers and sons: equal partners with women in the mission to make the world a better and safe place for our children. Rape is a violation of the sacred temple of humanity regardless what our respective religions or systems of belief. The topic of rape is also one that is “taboo” or prohibited in many places. The time to remove the taboo has come. Let’s talk about rape. It’s a social evil that must be eradicated from the fabric of civil society.

Of course, each society needs to demonstrate swift, certain and uncompromising justice. Rape is not only a problem in India. Women, and sometimes men, confront this kind of threat and violation around the world. No society is immune. As a civilizing Jon-Deisher's-Rape-article-250pxforce of private citizens, what can Rotary do about the crime of rape? Anyone can be a victim. While it is a crime of sex, criminologists, psychologists and sociologists tell us that, at a more complicated level, it is also a crime of dominance, intimidation, control, power and, sometimes, genocide. Obviously, once the crime has been committed, it becomes an issue of criminal justice: identifying the perpetrators, taking them into custody, trying, convicting and punishing those found guilty. The criminal justice process is not a Rotarian one. Rotary’s role must be one of prevention, of modeling civil behavior between genders, of demonstrating how vulnerable people can be respected and protected, of educating citizens, especially children, to respect each other. We do these things in the fields of health/hygiene, agriculture, economics, religion and cross-cultural understanding. Why not in the field of social engineering and equality of, between and among genders?

Suppose rape were seen as a symptom of an underlying disease of the body of humanity: as an indication of a malady that must be confronted with the same intensity, commitment, and determination as symptoms of polio. Polio is a function of social dynamics as much as it is of a nasty virus. As a social evil, rape is similar to polio. Like polio, the appropriate confrontation to rape requires education, socio-cultural collaboration, political mandates, religious support, and uncompromising legal sanctions. If rape is a symptom, as I believe it to be, what’s the illness? This is a topic worthy of a Rotarian conversation.

Jon Deisher is a member of the Rotary Club of Anchorage, Alaska

About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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2 Responses to Rape: It’s Time for Rotarians to Begin Talking About It

  1. Jon. You are wonderful. Thank you for starting this discussion. The problem as reported is dominated by male perpetrators who refuse to see females as anything like equal status.
    One tiny way for Rotary to start would be by promoting wider endorsement of our 4 Way Test as one behavioural minimum aimed at communities all around the world. I sometimes think that we want to keep this 4WT philosophy a secret for Rotary Clubs only……the whole world needs it now !

  2. I think Kenneth is on to something: Teaching or explaining Rotary’s 4-way Test could be a good way to at least establish a dialogue about rape, and in particular, culturally permitted gang rape, in places where rape is never mentioned. My only concern is whether the 4-Way Test is actually real. It’s not easy to live by those principles, much less engage in honest dialogue about it.

    We recite it, we print it, we etch it into glass, yes – but have you noticed that it’s virtually never discussed? I believe that if Rotarians around the world actually embraced the 4-Way Test, Rotary would not be experiencing a decline. Instead of 17% women, we would have 50% women members, for example, and more women directors, and – dare I say it – would have had at least one woman RIP by now. It could be reasonably argued that women are not treated fairly, or as equals, by Rotary, and that is precisely the root cause of rape: women are devalued by the rapists, because they simply just don’t matter as much as men.

    Look at LinkedIn discussion threads where in rare instances someone brings up the 4-Way Test: Invariably it’s ignored, at best, or the poster is chastised, at worst. To the contrary, Rotarians commonly forget the 4-Way Test – especially where the risk of social repercussions are lowest, such as in an online forum – and disrespect one another in some of these very public and International discussions; and even though one or two calmer heads may call for restraint, they often go unheeded.

    If we paid anything more than lip service to the 4-Way Test, I would be more hopeful that it could provide the means for raising consciousness about Rotary ideals. But we need to get our own house in order first, before we set out to correct attitudes and behavior of others.

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